The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: Children and their sports

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Children and their sports

Today, I have a guest blogger, Audrey Brown from KidProof who has good insight into the world of children and their sports:

Football, softball, hockey, volleyball, soccer. Organized sports are a great way for kids to get in shape, build their skills, meet new friends and develop a life-long love of the game.
And more kids are playing than ever before. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons estimates that about half of all boys and a quarter of girls ages 8 to 16 participate in some sort of sports program during the year. Millions more hit the field for physical education classes, church and community tournaments or city recreation programs.

But pushed too far too fast by overzealous grown-ups, these young athletes have more risk of injury than we do. Here’s why: because their bodies are still growing, sometimes at uneven rates, kids’ bones, tendons, muscles and ligaments might not yet be in proper alignment – which leaves them prone to injury. What’s more, they’re still developing their coordination, endurance and strength, which means they’re more likely to get hit by a ball or another player, to fall or twist an ankle, or to overexert themselves.

In younger players, match-ups aren’t always equal. One 10-year-old boy who’s 75 pounds may have to face off against an opponent who weighs 40 pounds more. And when athletes reach high school age, they’re faster, stronger, heavier, and capable of slamming their rivals to the ground.

To prevent injuries, look for the right program – and the right coach. The league should require all kids to use proper equipment and safety gear, which may include helmets, protective eye wear, the right shoes, mouth guards, face masks, shin guards, athletic supporters and padding. Make sure the playing surface is appropriate and well maintained. Fields shouldn’t have any holes or grooves that might trip players. High-impact sports like basketball and running should be done on wooden courts and dirt tracks, not concrete. Practices and games should always be supervised by conscientious adults who, ideally, have been trained in the game rules, safety, first aid and CPR.
Next, look for a coach who encourages teamwork, confidence, cooperation and growth – over winning at all costs. Physically, he should always warm up the team before practice, teach your kid basic skills and defensive moves, and focus on building your kid’s overall muscle strength, flexibility, endurance and heart-and-lung fitness.
He should also know the basics of sports injuries and what to do when they occur. Sprains, strains, cuts, bruises are by far the most common, while bone fractures and spinal cord injuries are rare. A good coach will know how to spot early signs of trouble, like limping or flinching, and urge you to seek treatment from your family doctor or, when necessary, the emergency room.

A good coach will also know when to give your athlete a break. Repetitive actions like pitching or swimming stress young bones and muscles and can lead to overuse injuries. This can include stress fractures, sore and swollen knees, elbow pain in pitchers, sore shoulders in swimmers, shin splints from running on a hard surface, and spondylolysis from repetitive flexing and twisting in soccer, football, weight lifting, gymnastics, wrestling and diving.

To prevent these stress injuries, make sure your child always warms up, keep an eye on the duration and intensity of his practices, make sure he has the right equipment and technique, schedule breaks in his year-round schedule and don’t let him back on the field until a prior injury has completely healed.

Most important, teach your player to acknowledge pain, listen to his body and know when to stop – even if his team mates or coach are egging him on. Trying to push past the pain might land him on the bench for the rest of the season.

Happy Parenting!

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